Author Topic: More Bias  (Read 1298 times)

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Offline Thucydides

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More Bias
« on: January 14, 2008, 22:42:22 »
As if the CBC/Schreiber Inquiry affair wasn't enough to turn us away from the MSM as a source of factual information, here is another from the print media (not too surprisingly the Toronto Star). If a blogger or community weekly had reported this way it *might* be understandable given their limited resources and experience, but a self styled major newspaper like the Star with (supposedly) experienced reporters, fact checkers and an editorial staff to provide oversight?

Jonathan Kay: How Julian Falconer got The Toronto Star to publish a completely bogus front-page story
Posted: January 14, 2008, 3:54 PM by Jonathan Kay
Jonathan Kay

When a competing newspaper gets a juicy scoop, I read it with equal parts jealousy and interest — half of my brain digesting the news, the other half wondering why we didn’t land it ourselves.

So it was on Saturday, when the Toronto Star ran this banner headline on its front-page: “Board mandarins snub probe: Safety panel chair astounded that 19 of 23 superintendents refused to co-operate.”

The story, by Star staffer Michele Henry, was a follow-up to last week’s blockbuster report from Julian Falconer, a human-rights lawyer who’d been commissioned to investigate the safety of Toronto’s schools following the deadly shooting of Jordan Manners at C.W. Jeffrys Collegiate Institute last May. In her lead, Henry reported Falconer’s astonishing claim that, in the reporter’s words, all but four of 23 Toronto school-board superintendants — who each supervise about two dozen schools — “refused invitations to speak alone or in focus groups,” “stonewalled his panel,” and “turned down requests to offer their insights.”

This was shocking news, perhaps even more shocking than the somewhat hysterical conclusions contained in the Falconer report itself. If 80% of superintendants truly “stonewalled” a public servant seeking to improve student safety, that might even be taken as evidence of some kind of organized cover-up for … well, who knows. At the very least, it seemed to corroborate Falconer’s claim, contained in his report, of a “culture of silence” that “permeates through every level’ of the school board.

Spicy stuff. Too bad the National Post didn’t land it.

But on Sunday, my jealousy dissipated as I ploughed through yet another Falconer follow-up in the Star, this one buried on page 4, underneath a story about teenagers riding the subway with no pants. The title: “Falconer never asked us: No shows.”

Or as Gilda Radner might have put it on Weekend Update, “Never mind.”

This story, by education-beat reporter Louise Brown (who presumably was the one who woke up to freak-out phone calls from her school-board contacts on Saturday morning), essentially told readers that the claims ascribed to Falconer in Saturday’s stop-the-presses scoop were nonsense. As Brown reports, Falconer never even asked most of the system’s superintendents to participate. To quote one superintendent: “There was no invitation, not even a sort of cattle call for superintendents to meet with the panel because it seemed they were focusing on that northwest quadrant of the city [where Manners was killed].”

Who’s to blame for the Star’s fictitious smear on the Toronto District School Board?

Obviously, Ms. Henry — who is a general-assignment reporter — should have interviewed a few school-board officials to confirm Falconer’s bogus claim that most superintendents “would not meet with us.” But to my mind, The Star’s senior editors look even worse. This was a major, major screw-up — one that deserved a candid mea culpa editor’s note of the type this newspaper published after it ran a similarly inaccurate story about Iranian Jews in 2006. Instead, Sunday’s quasi-retraction was an exercise in verbal weasledom. Particularly embarrassing was the fact that the heart of the issue was buried in this virtually unintelligible double-negative: “When Falconer was asked [Saturday] night if [Superintendants] were never asked to contribute their views, he replied simply: ‘No.’ "

Unfortunately, this is all par for the course at the Star, whose front page has become a grab bag of socialist policy reports from obscure think tanks, cooked poverty statistics, identity politics, and other pseudo-stories torqued heavily to further the “Atkinson Principles” that comprise its editorial manifesto. What is more interesting and news-worthy is that Falconer is being so reckless and sloppy with his accusations that he would spin a journalist into reporting falsehoods.

Nor do I see this as an innocent misunderstanding, which is what some people involved suggested to me over the phone. Falconer clearly wanted to sex up his report, and the reaction to it, by portraying the school board as a sort of dark, secretive Magisterium.

As my colleague John Turley-Ewart and The Globe & Mail’s Peggy Wente noted in critiques of Falconer’s report last week, the human-rights lawyer seems far more interested in riding politically correct hobby horses like bashing Mike Harris and blaming the pathologies of black schools on racism (the word “racialized,” a fashionable PC term that roughly translates to “Black and presumably oppressed,” appears 84 times in the report.) His disgraceful spin job on the Toronto Star only serves to confirm the impression that he is more interested in furthering a political agenda that helping Toronto’s schools.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.